Karrington Seals Seals 1 Kevin Ball Hon1000 September 29th, 2014 Hitsville and Motown: The Epitome of Detroit Turn on a radio station, any at all. The beat, the lyricism, the production has some connect back to the city of Detroit. Originally referred to as Hitsville USA, the Motown Museum emerged January 12, 1959 at 2648 West Grand Boulevard. This epicenter of talent, business and success birthed extraordinary music, sparked movements, dissipated social unrest and provided the prospect of a better tomorrow. It was no accident that Berry Gordy’s father fled to Detroit to establish his family, the promises of the Motor City were enticing. Motown and its influence, encapsulated in the Motown Museum, was more then just music. It represents an industry and a city overcoming strife for success, a motif of opportunity. Gordy grew up in an environment where any chance is capable of prosperity and he translated that to his business. I agree the value of Detroit is mirrored in Hitsville. It symbolizes an opportune and influential place that responded to a thriving industry in an advantageous city that heavily influenced social structure, culture and music and continues to do so today. Detroit, a city teeming with opportunity and potential, is the result of battling obstacles for success. Berry Gordy said, “Every day I watched how a bare metal frame, rolling down the line would come off the other end, a spanking brand new car. What a great idea! Maybe, I could do the same thing with my music. Create a place where a kid off the street could walk in one door, an unknown, go through a process, and come out another door, a star” (Smith 14). A vision established Motown and opportunity kept the doors open. Gordy generated a place to provide anyone a chance by taking advantage of one opportunity and Karrington Seals Seals 2 Kevin Ball Hon1000 September 29th, 2014 putting forth an effort. He grew up around a mindset of entrepreneurship, “tough discipline and emphasis on hard work” (Posner 7); both his parents owned businesses, multiple actually. The Gordy’s idea of hard work and merit is not foreign to Detroiters. The city is a place of obstacles and attracts the hardest working people to contribute to its society in response. Berry Gordy did not build up the most successful African-American owned company in America (Motown Museum) overnight, nor did he forgo any barriers while doing so. Like Detroit, he faced a segregated society in the music industry. And although the disconnect was discernible, both the city and the industry offered so much and almost begged to be tampered with. The city’s culture shaped Motown and in turn, Motown became the culture. Detroit is a land of opportunity in a sense: its Northern location made it attractive to former slaves, its seductively booming auto industry enticed people from all over and today, the current restructuring of the city is provoking a slow but noticeable migration back to the city; Motown pulled on the sense of opportunity so many years ago and used it to create names for its artists. Seemingly unknowns became known because of the simple chance Hitsville offered. Opportunity spawned opportunity both in the city and for Hitsville and Berry Gordy. “Motown’s relationship to Detroit offers a provocative example of a cultural formation, since the “artistic form” is popular music and the “social location” is an industrial city with a strong black middle class and a long history of racism. Exploring Motown’s formation in Detroit reveals how the development of a strong black urban community created unique opportunities for the development of an independent black Karrington Seals Seals 3 Kevin Ball Hon1000 September 29th, 2014 commercial culture, and how this independent commercial culture then participated in the larger struggle for racial equality” (Smith 9). Motown goes beyond music. It was a means of communication during the Civil Rights era, a plea for understanding and awareness of the happenings in the world, and a starting place for easing race relations between Blacks and Whites. Yes, Motown generated extraordinary music, but it also spearheaded movements and prompted a self-check for the city. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album and Aretha Franklin’s song “Respect” acts as prime examples. Motown artists began to venture toward making music that was more socially and politically relevant. Motown existed in a time of conflict, racism and social unrest –the Detroit Race Riots, Vietnam War and Jim Crow to specify a few– and used its power to disseminate and evoke change. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Diana Ross were signed to the same label; one made timeless music and the other generated a spoken-word recording entitled The Great March to Freedom (Smith 21). Motown endured what the city went through as far as racially pertaining situations. Artists were denied bookings because of the race of their artists and Detroiters were denied jobs for the same reason. There was correspondence between what happened in the real world and what happen in the Hitsville world. “You may like today’s pop stars, and I will not deny that they have great talent, but they in no way compare to the flood of great artists that at one time poured out of the Hitsville USA studio. The irony of this is that today’s music companies use the formula sounds, routines, and other conventions that Motown practically invented” (Taylor 3) Karrington Seals Seals 4 Kevin Ball Hon1000 September 29th, 2014 “Blurred Lines” –which peaked at number 1 in 14 countries and led the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 weeks–sampled Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up”: one of the most popular songs of 2014 was influenced by a song from 1977, a Motown hit. Music is undoubtedly a large part of society today, and has always been in Detroit. The influence of Motown on music continues to be relevant today, especially in the city where it originated. Motown not only used its music to entertain the masses, but to make a difference in the world. Detroit, a notoriously problem-ridden city, had the gem of Motown, which represented all the good the city had to offer. Both the city of Detroit and Motown took advantage of the immense opportunity they possessed. Music had no color and Motown supported this notion by not appealing to a specific type of person but people in general and Detroit is the result of the melting pot. Motown is the identity of the city and the city is Motown.